AACPS is Mask Optional: What Now?



Camryn Chehreh and Sophia Mancuso

Last Friday after an unanimous vote from the board of education, AACPS schools went mask-optional. Excluding the Fort Meade area, anyone within an Anne Arundel County school now has the choice to remove their masks when in the building. Raising both cheers and concerns from staff and students alike, the decision has been widely debated throughout the county. With the mandates lifted and differing opinions, we must ask ourselves: where do we go from here?


Fletcher Port, a senior at Severna Park High School and Secretary of Education for the Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils (CRASC) says the key factor behind the board’s decision to lift the mask mandate is student health. “Numbers have consistently decreased,” he says, “but we have to keep up that decrease.” Port, who is responsible for reporting to the board on behalf of CRASC, notes that an increase in cases throughout the county could result in a reversal of this decision, though it’s not quite that simple. “If cases all of a sudden start trending towards the stars again, masks could very well be back.” In December of 2021, Massachusetts schools began the switch to mask-optional learning environments, and have been lucky enough to see considerably low case numbers since then, which Port calls “promising.” In addition, he expresses the importance of respecting the decisions of other students regarding masking. “We are still very much new to this, even if it has been two years, and every student feels differently about it, it is more important than ever to continue to respect and be there for the people around us.” 


Within the halls of Crofton High, student opinion regarding the mandate has been mixed. When asked how they feel about masks being optional at Crofton, Freshman Swae Stanley says she is “pretty happy because (she will) get to see everyone’s faces” despite initial fears over COVID-19 outbreaks. Sophomore Abigail Wolfe stated that she was, “excited to hear that it (the mask mandate) was lifted because we’ve been wearing them for a long time.” Wolfe also shared that “it was lifted at a perfect time because we’ve been wearing them for almost a year.” Junior Diego Garcia, on the other hand, expresses his concerns over the lifted mandate. “We might not necessarily be ready as a school for that transition,” he explains. “Many students and their families are immuno-compromised, and thus their health is put at greater risk because, whether we choose to admit it or not, we are still in a pandemic.” 


In approximately two weeks, the board will re-evaluate their decision- but for now, masks remain optional and students continue to navigate this new environment one day at a time.